Purpose vs Preference
Written by: Charneise Alston, M.Ed
Life is choice-driven, so it is important to discover what prompts, influences, and drives our decisions. Motivation is defined as the reason why one acts or behaves in a particular way. There is a reason behind every choice that you have made throughout your life. I know, without a doubt, that my preferences have persuaded all of my past decisions. While there is nothing wrong with choosing what you prefer, I am learning that my preference profits my desires more than my destiny. Moreover, some choices in life require discretion, comprehensive thought and investigation of pros and cons rather than electing what appears attractive.
When indulging in my preferences, I have wasted time, money, and energy investing in the wrong things and people. As my judgment matures, my selection becomes more refined. Now, I aim to make purpose-driven decisions. Purpose is the reason for which something is created. When purpose guides your decisions, the ultimate benefit is the meaningful and rewarding payoff.
As stated in my introduction, adulthood is filled with decision after decision. The beauty of having a choice-driven life is the liberty of exercising your free will. However, for every right choice, there are deceptive counterfeits strategically posed along the way. Also, I quickly learned that decisions are not one size fits all. The choices that may benefit one person may not be as beneficial for you so it is important for us to not carelessly choose solely upon our preferences.
Since I am a visual learner, I tend to look at life’s choices as beautifully wrapped gift boxes. Some of the poor choices that I have made in life were due to the appeal of the packaging. Am I the only one guilty of this fault? Tell me that I am not alone in my absence of discernment in the past. I have been presented with beautifully wrapped choices, void of significance, but seductive at first-sight to the naked-eye. I have chosen the wrong jobs, friends, men, and items which all seemed attractive in the beginning. However, the gravity of certain choices has lasting effects which is why surface-level decisions cannot sustain long-term commitments.
For example, I have witnessed many people make choices out of preference only to later regret their decision. That is why buyer’s remorse is a real consequence of certain choices. Have you ever bought a car that was a lemon? It looked good and even drove well off of the lot until some time passed. Conversely, have you ever bought something out of your budget because it looked good? Did you prefer a Mercedes when your budget allowed for a Honda? Did you purchase a beautiful home without considering the potential repairs and increasing property taxes? Did you choose to marry a person because of physical attraction and chemistry, only to end up unsatisfied and alone? We must not allow our preference to precede sound judgment.
As I outgrow my preferences in many facets, I am learning to not make snap decisions. Whenever an abrupt decision is made, I am clearly operating out of my preferences. I now allow myself the space and grace to revisit choices before making a decision. I am in no rush nor am I desperate which keeps my judgment sober. I also refrain from making emotional decisions. My rule of thumb for every decision that I make is, “Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.” Beware because you might hastily choose according to your wants instead of your needs.
When I was a senior in high school, the biggest decision that I had to make was deciding what college to attend. I went on a few college tours to assess the different campuses. At that time, I was not sure whether or not I wanted to attend a small or large university. Also, I was unclear about how far I wanted my college to be located from my parents’ home. I was clueless for the most part except for the main reason why I wanted to go to college. I knew at a very young age what profession I wanted to have as an adult. I initially thought that I wanted to be a teacher, but I later discovered in my junior year that counseling was my passion. Anyway, I chose West Chester University because of my purpose.
Here lies my point, I realized that my most rewarding outcomes were derived from purpose-driven decisions. When we do not designate a purpose for money, we tend to spend it frivolously towards our preferences. Purpose sets parameters and keeps you focused on priorities. My purpose wakes me up early every morning and pushes me out of the bed. If I allowed my preference to dictate my choices, I would most likely be late to work because I prefer to sleep longer hours. However, my purpose creates discipline. Therefore, my behavior is not contingent on my feelings.
When I was seeking to buy a house, I remember falling in love with each house upon arrival. After renting for seven years, I was euphoric at the thought of home ownership. I excitedly wanted to place an offer on each house, but thankfully my realtor did not let a novice make a regretful decision. I had to dissect why I wanted a house and how long I saw myself living in a specific location. Instead of focusing on the What before me, I had to pinpoint the Why behind my decision. By doing so, I considered the resale value and other variables that created a purpose for my purchase.
I remember when a friend of mine experienced a brief mid-life crisis and bought a fast, tiny sports car. As everyone marveled at his latest toy, I was unswayed because I instantly knew that his preference overruled his purpose for a car. While the car was beautiful without a doubt, it was not appropriate to be his primary car. First, he was very tall and could barely fit inside the car, even with the driver’s seat pushed all the way back. Second, he was a father of three who often drove his children to football practice. Needless to say, that fast, tiny sports car was eventually traded-in for a more practical alternative.
If you are single, I urge you to date with a purpose for your purpose. Have an end game and select a person who will compliment your purpose in life. Do not make a future decision based on preferences. Preferences are linked to your present feelings, which are subject to change.
In closing, let me inject a disclaimer to avoid any confusion: there is nothing wrong with having a preference. It is natural to have preferences when given options. However, do not allow preference to precede purpose. As life continues to present choices and options, do your due diligence by examining your motivation and seeking out the purpose of your choices.
“We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely… change is due to wanting power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.”
~George A. Sheehan~